The Punjabi version of the book Fighting Hatred with Love: Voices of the Air India Victim’s Families by Gurpreet Singh was released Saturday afternoon by the Khalsa Diwan Society Vice President Major Singh Sidhu, who lost his sister, a niece and nephew in the tragedy.
Translated by Pawan Gulati and published by India-based Chetna Parkashan, Nafrat Sang Piyar Di Jang is about testimonies of the Air India victims’ families which are now engaged in philanthropy and have turned their grief into kindness. Among them are Dr. Chandra Sekhar Sankurathri and Dr. A.V. Anantaraman, who have migrated back to India and are currently running free schools and hospitals for poor and destitute. Both these men lost their wives and children in the Air India bombings that left 331 people dead on June 23, 1985. Dr. Sankurathri has even forgiven those responsible for the crime and decided to move on by helping others.
Sidhu’s story is also a part of this book. He had jumped into temple politics following the incident to challenge fundamentalist forces. The crime was blamed on the Sikh separatists. The alleged mastermind of the tragedy Talwinder Singh Parmar was the leader of the Babbar Khalsa, a banned terrorist group in Canada. The investigation has resulted in only one conviction. Inderjit Singh Reyat, who made the bombs used in the crime is currently serving time for lying under oath and not revealing the identity of another potential suspect.
The book launch event was held at annual Punjabi Book Fair in Surrey. At least two more victims’ families were in attendance. Mandeep Grewal who lost his father, while Surjit Kalsi lost his first cousin in the tragedy.
Among those who spoke at the event were former MLA Dave Hayer, whose father Tara Singh Hayer was assassinated in 1998. Tara Singh Hayer was the editor of Indo Canadian Times, who died as a vocal critic of extremism. He had agreed to testify against the Air India suspects. Others who addressed the gathering were a prominent Punjabi writer Nadeem Parmar, who has authored two novels based on the Air India episode. Punjabi poets, Mohan Gill, Amrit Diwana and Davinder Johal recited poems dedicated to the Air India victims, while Raminder Bhullar sang a song in solidarity with the victims’ families.
Others who spoke at the event included former MLA Jagrup Brar, moderate leaders, Balwant Singh Gill, Harkirat Singh, Gurnam Singh Sanghera, Indo Canadian Workers’ Association leaders, Surinder Sangha, Kulwant Dhesi and Surinder Dhesi. The Georgia Straight Editor Charlie Smith also spoke at the event. A prominent community activist and Surrey Hindu Temple leader Vinay Sharma was the MC at the book launch.
Two MLAs, Harry Bains and Raj Chouhan besides, former BC Human Rights Commission Chairman Harinder Mahil were also in attendance.